Sports from the Basement

The One Who Specializes in Failure: Mourinho Sacked

It’s finally happened. After dismal performances on the pitch, characteristic histrionics in front of the microphone and on the sidelines, and amid flourishing rumors about his being sacked, Jose Mourinho, ‘The Special One,’ has been fired. Chelsea FC’s official statement claims his departure comes by “mutual consent,” and that Mourinho leaves “on good terms” with the club.

It also claims to have three grams of genuine, powdered unicorn horn on offer to the first talking armadillo who can recite the entire Cyrillic alphabet. Backward. From space.

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In truth, it’s been ugly. Mourinho’s recent—and final—post game interview highlights just how awful things were within the Stamford Bridge dressing room. Not content to let the cloud of misery hang over this dismal season alone, the Portuguese manager drew in last year’s successful campaign—and, unsurprisingly, took all the credit. Mourinho claimed that, last year, he had raised the Chelsea players “to a level that is not their level, that is more than they really are.”

Therefore, the awful form that has seen Chelsea toeing the boundary of the relegation zone is not his fault! All of these recent failures not his own! No, it’s merely the ‘veneer of Mourinho-amazing’ wearing thin, so we now finally see the ugly, lusterless finish(ing) of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard beneath.

That’s a load of baloney to feed an army—with which Mourinho would probably start a protracted land war in Asia.

But we’ve known Mourinho to be a headline-grabber with his post-game verbiage; that’s nothing new. And honestly, it’s not about off color gaffs in front of a camera, nor even about his massive tome of a disciplinary record and the matches he’s been consequently banned from. It’s about results. And when you’ve alienated your players to the point that you’re willing to throw them under the bus a parade of M1 tanks, it’s hard to get results. Mourinho did not bring something amazing out of his players. Like some purple cartoon alien from Iberia, he oppressed them to the point of Space Jam-esque failure.

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Okay, so Oscar probably isn’t dejectedly staring through chain-link fences in Rio, then getting dispossessed by Brazilian tweens—but still. These results have been abysmal. Leicester City’s recently fantastic, table-topping form notwithstanding, the combination of back-to-back Premier League losses to Leicester and Bournemouth with a relegation-flirtation table position meant that, really, Mourinho was always going to be canned.

Previously, in more seemingly-unimpeachable times, The Special One once jested that Arsenal’s boss Arsene Wenger, for his nine-year trophy drought, was “a specialist in failure.” But Wenger’s Arsenal teams, even during off years—as Thierry Henry points out in this cringe-worthily awkward interview alongside former Arsenal and current Chelsea player Cesc Fabregas—were never looking at relegation. Sure in both 2012 and 2013 it took some last minute, Laurent ‘I wanna dance with’ Koscielny heroics to save Wenger’s men from the Europa League’s poison chalice, but they were always in the top four fight.

For Chelsea, this season, that’s out of the question—before being fired, Mourinho himself admitted as much.

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At the moment, it seems former Blues boss Guus Hiddink—who won the FA Cup with Chelsea in 2009—is set to be Stamford Bridge’s interim manager. In all likelihood, whoever steps in for Mourinho (even if it’s a big foam #1 finger) will likely guide Chelsea clear of relegation territory. They simply have too much quality to find themselves finishing south of Sunderland. But at this juncture, if they drop points further in the month of December, it’s nonetheless possible that, come New Year’s Day, Chelsea Football Club will be sitting in a relegation position. Whether Mourinho is your Schadenfreude hero or ‘how-could-this-happen’ relegation villain, it’s hard to argue that his sacking wasn’t a long time coming.

The implosion of last year’s champions should provide a cautionary tale in football management. But not for Premier League clubs. Or, at least, not for most of them. The majority of professional managers—whatever their idiosyncrasies or annoying park-the-bus tactics (cough cough Pulis cough)—would never stoop so low as Mourinho has this month. In the same post-game interview after falling to league leaders Leicester, Mourinho said this of his players’ performance: “I feel my work has been betrayed.” Yes, betrayal. And the performance wasn’t a betrayal of the fans who shelled out ludicrous amounts of cash to sit in the stands; it was a betrayal of Mourinho, and Mourinho alone.

No, this is not about top flight football coaches. This is a lesson for semi-pro managers, for youth coaches; this is a lesson for amateurs even. You do not throw your team in the gutter. You do not claim to be absolved of responsibility as your squad struggles. You do not call out your players while pretending to be blameless.

Of course, these are professional athletes, grown men earning millions who need not be coddled. But if you want to be a leader of men, you don’t point the finger and exonerate yourself. You don’t claim your troops’ struggles are pathetic and that, were it not for you, they’d have been even worse in your last campaign.

But that’s where Mourinho is. Or was. Wagging his finger in the faces of the vanguard, stuck in the middle of Eurasia with his supply lines cut off, shouting about his ability to turn the weak masses before him into better performers than they really are, if only they hadn’t already betrayed him. Luckily for Mourinho, Chelsea’s Russian commander in chief swooped in to sack him before the mutiny began.

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